Why waste any time with idle chit-chat, vendor exhibits,
grad school or career fairs?
Ask questions as soon as the speaker puts up their
Why wait for the speaker to explain their research?
Point out every error you’ve found while reading
They’ll appreciate the feedback.
Skip the questions, just make statements.
This will let others know you already know the answer.
Never consider another’s feelings when asking questions.
Say something like, “Why did you waste time using that
method?” People will remember you as a zealous truth
Don’t turn off your cell phone.
Receiving lots of calls and text messages just makes you
Don’t go out of your way to meet new people.
Why meet new colleagues/collaborators?
Always wait for people to introduce themselves.
All will be naturally drawn to you, particularly if you stand
against a wall.
Only talk about your research.
People will be impressed by your expertise and you won’t
be bothered with new information.
Drink and eat as much as you can at receptions.
It’s free and you’re on vacation, right?
*Based on “Conference Etiquette” by University of Wisconsin – Madison
Professors Mark D. Hill and David A. Wood. Please visit http://pages.
to be fairly casual, occurring in hallways, at receptions, and over
shared meals — but even so, you shouldn’t treat them
“Remember you are always on stage and not just represent-
ing yourself, but also your mentor and institution,” warns Jason
Kautz, UNL professor and coordinator of undergraduate educa-
tion. Keep in mind the words of CIC’s Zepeda: your field is
small, and people talk. Just ask a faculty advisor from a small
private school, who took undergraduate researchers to last year’s
ACS meeting in New Orleans. “My students were flashing peo-
ple on Bourbon Street,” shares the advisor, continuing, “I heard
about it later from my post-doc advisors.”
These students were “off duty” — but they were still “on
stage.” Such behavior can mean more than
conversation with your advisor. Ohio State’s Freeman recalls
that a “student had a great time on Friday night and slept right
Consult the conference proceedings in advance and plan
to attend talks that interest you – both in and out of your
Listen carefully and take notes.
This will help you draft thoughtful questions.
Engage a poster presenter in conversation.
They’ll appreciate talking about their work rather than
standing next to it.
Always be diplomatic.
Disagreements are no reason to make disparaging remarks.
Professionalism is always appreciated.
Let a presenter know you enjoyed their talk/poster one-on-
one. This is a great way to start a conversation and make
Forget your cell phone.
Giving your undivided attention lets people know you’re
fully engaged in the meeting.
Make time for “non-academic” events.
These are excellent places to make professional contacts.
Talk to strangers.
Conferences are great places to meet new colleagues/col-
laborators, future graduate school advisors, or employers.
Ask people about their research.
They’re just as excited to talk about their research as
There is no such thing as a “social event.”
You’re at a conference representing your institution, and
your behavior at all times reflects on both you and your
through his presentation on Saturday morning.” Social gaffes can
have serious professional consequences. CIC’s Zepeda warns
students to avoid “silliness that can close doors of opportunity
that might otherwise have been opened for them.”
Open doors and
keep them open
by carefully preparing for your
conference. Preparation isn’t just for your talk or poster, but also
for your behavior. A conference can be a stormy sea to navigate
… but with proper preparation, it will be smooth sailing.
RAYCHELLE BURKS is a graduate student at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, defending her dis-
sertation in spring 2009. She is an analytical chemist
focused on the detection of explosives.
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